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A Shoulder to Cry On

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Dean sat on the edge of the padded wooden chair, hands fidgeting in his lap as he glanced across the large, oak desk then looked down again, unable to meet the intense blue gaze of the pastor.

“So, Dean, what brings you to see me? And where’s that charming husband of yours? It’s rare to see you without him,” Pastor Novak asked.

“Well, actually, I was hoping for some advice about Crowley; that’s why I came without him,” Dean replied hesitantly.

“Oh, that’s right. You two are coming up on your five year anniversary, aren’t you? Looking for advice on a present for him? Fifth anniversary is traditionally wood. You could get him a nice, personalized cigar box. Or maybe an easel? He’s recently taken up painting, hasn’t he? Oh, but he’d notice if you spend too much and that would ruin the surprise. You could always make him something? I’m sure we have some good wood left over from the paneling we removed when we remodeled the Sunday school room. You’d be welcome to use some, if—”

“Um, that’s still more than a month away. And it’s not what I need advice on. Uh, you know we adopted Ben a bit over a year ago, when my friend Lisa passed away, right?”

The pastor nodded. “Yes, I remember. That was very generous of you two. Are you having trouble with him? He’s what, eleven? Twelve? Nearly a teenager, right?”

“He’s ten, but Ben isn’t the problem. At least, not directly. It’s just, ever since we adopted him, Crowley has been…” Dean paused, searching for the right word. “More temperamental? Moody? He, uh, I mean, he used to get a bit violent once in a while, if he’d had too much to drink, but now, he’s just...he loses his temper almost every night, and he...he’s getting pretty damn scary.”

“Language, Dean. Have you talked with him about it? He also got a promotion at work not long after you adopted, right? Maybe he’s over-stressed and needs to find a healthier outlet for it,” Pastor Novak suggested.

“I’ve tried, but when he’s in a rage, he just gets madder and says I’m disrespecting him and need to be punished. The few times I’ve tried to talk when he’s in a better mood, he gets pissed—er, sorry, he gets angry—and asks why I went and ruined a perfectly lovely evening.” Dean glanced up again, only to lower his gaze once more when he found the pastor frowning at him.

“Perhaps your approach is wrong. Marriage counseling might help. We offer free counseling here at the church. I’ll make mention of it to him this Sunday for you.”

“No! Please, you can’t tell him I talked to you about this.”

“I don’t see why not. Crowley is an honest, reasonable man. Don’t worry, though. If you wish this to remain confidential, it will. How about if I remind the congregation of our free services and you can use that as a segue into suggesting the two of you take advantage of the free marriage counseling. Would that be acceptable?”

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I guess that would work.”

“Good. Remember, marriage is a bridge built between two people, connecting them. To lose that bridge would be to lose a part of oneself, so both partners must work hard to keep the foundations strong, together. Because if you each only work on your own side without communicating, the bridge may not align when you get to the middle. Please let me know how things go.”

“Uh, right. I’ll do that. Thanks.” Dean stood, nodded awkwardly in lieu of goodbye, then hurried out the door. He wasn’t sure he’d really gotten the advice he’d come for, but honestly, he wasn’t sure why he’d come in the first place.




“Hello, Squirrel.”

Dean jumped, dropping his keys as his gaze shot to Crowley’s chair. He wasn’t supposed to be home for two more hours. “Crowley? You’re home early. What’s the occasion, babe?” he asked as he bent to pick up his keys with trembling fingers.

“No occasion, really. Just thought I’d come home for some lunchtime loving. Imagine my surprise at arriving to find the house empty. Where’ve you been? Off letting someone else dip their chocolate in my peanut butter?” Crowley raised an eyebrow, deceptively calm. He sat in his ornate, wingback chair which he’d turned to face the front door, an ankle crossed over his knee, elbows on the arms of the chair and fingers steepled.

“Oh. I had lunch with Sam.”

“Lunch that lasted until,” Crowley made a show of looking at his rolex, “two thirty-eight in the afternoon? The courthouse only recesses from noon until one for lunch.”

“I stopped by church on the way back.”

“And ‘stopping by’ took over an hour?” Crowley pressed.

Dean shrugged, turning to hang his green jacket on its hook behind the door. “Pastor Novak wanted to give me advice on what to get you for our anniversary.”

“That’s over a month away.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said. But it’s an important anniversary, and it could take a while to come up with just the right present.” Dean had the feeling Crowley was in the mood for a fight and nothing he could say would derail his suspicions. Especially considering Dean felt guilty about even having gone to ask for advice. He loved his husband and what happened behind closed doors was nobody else’s business. If Crowley wasn’t getting so scary when he lost his temper, he never would have sought outside advice. But the fact was, Dean was beginning to fear for his own safety, and Ben’s, though he’d never found any evidence of Crowley focusing his temper on their son.

“You expect me to believe that? You want to know what I think? I think you went and had a lunchtime tryst of your own.” Crowley stood, stalking slowly toward Dean.

“I didn’t! Crowley, I would never—”

“Wouldn’t you? I’ve seen the way you look at that pastor. The ‘come hither’ stares. Did he take you in the rectory or just bend you over his desk?” Crowley spat, backing Dean up against the wall.

“Dude, babe, there was nothing like that. In all honesty, yes, I find Pastor Novak attractive, but more in the sense of looking at art. It’s not like I wanna fuck him or whatever. I don’t want to make love with anyone but you, Crowley.”

“So you admit it. You think he’s hot. Makes your panties all wet, does he?” Crowley grabbed Dean’s cock through his jeans hard enough to draw a cry of pain.

“Only one does that is you, babe,” Dean protested.

“Actions speak louder than words, sweetheart. If you want me to believe the words coming from your mouth, then maybe you should try having something else coming from your mouth.” Crowley raised an eyebrow.

“Ben’ll be home in ten minutes. Maybe we could take thi—”

“Then you’d better work fast,” Crowley interrupted, forcing Dean onto his knees with one hand as he unfastened his belt with the other.




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Dean was rushing to get the floor by the door cleaned up before Ben got home. It was mostly just come, but the whole living room smelled like sex. Not to mention he didn’t want Ben seeing the bit of blood mixed in. Of course Crowley hadn’t believed him about not having cheated, even when he found Dean’s ass was dry and unused. Why let a little thing like lack of evidence stop him from angrily fucking his husband sans lube against the living room wall right in front of the door that their son could walk through at any time?

Just as Dean was standing, the plastic tub of disinfectant wipes in one hand, a wad of used ones in the other, the door opened and he quickly hid the cleaning items behind his back as he turned to face his son.

“Hey, Ben. How was school?”

“Hi Dean. Not too bad. Those guys have left me alone ever since you taught me how to deal with them without getting in trouble.” Ben worked his feet out of his shoes without untying them, then kicked them under the bench on the front wall by the door.

“What’d I tell ya? Works every time. You hungry? How about a snack. I made apple pie this morning.” Dean turned, keeping the cleaning items out of Ben’s sight, and went into the kitchen, throwing away the used wipes and putting the canister under the sink quickly, then washing his hands.

“Are you okay, Dean?” Ben asked, following after having hung up his jacket. He sat at the island and folded his arms on the counter, chin resting on them as he looked at his dad curiously.

“What? Yeah, I’m fine. Why do you ask?” Dean got out the pie and cut two big pieces, then turned to grab plates from the cupboard beside the sink, hiding his wince as the movement reminded him of the pain in his ass.

“You just...seem a little off,” Ben replied. Perceptive kid.

Dean plated the pie, then grabbed the caramel vanilla icecream from the freezer and added a scoop to each. “I’m fine. Had lunch with Sammy and he and Jessica are having problems. Guess she’s run off to her brother’s place for a few days again. It’s got me a bit bummed. But they’ll work it out. They always do.”

“What was it this time?” Ben asked, pulling the plate Dean slid toward him closer and holding his hand out for a fork.

“You’re too young to be worrying about marriage problems,” Dean chided as he pulled two forks from the drawer and handed one to Ben, using the other to take a big bite of his own pie.

“I’m ten years old. That’s not too young. Besides, I haven’t ever had married people around before you and Crowley. Mom always said it was a pain in the ass and wasn’t worth it, though she never tried it, so I don’t know how she knew that.” Only a brief shadow crossed his face as Ben remembered his mom. He'd come to terms with her loss over the past year.

“Ben, watch your language. If Crowley heard that he’d wash your mouth out with soap,” Dean admonished, pointing his fork at Ben in an attempt to be stern. Personally, he didn’t give a damn if the kid swore, as long as it was at an appropriate time and place. But Dean wasn’t kidding about Crowley. He believed in discipline and wanted Ben to be a proper young man at all times.

“Don’t worry, I’d never cuss around him; I know better. Besides, I was just quoting Mom.” Ben’s feet kicked idly against the island as he ate his pie and icecream. “So what were Uncle Sam and Aunt Jessica fighting about this time?”

Dean rolled his eyes. Kid had a one track mind. “Same thing as last time. Sammy wants kids, Jess doesn’t. Not yet, at least.”

“Shouldn’t they have talked about that before they got married? If you’re gonna promise to spend forever with someone, you should make sure you both want the same things first, right?”

“Yeah, that’s true. But Sam did know that Jess wanted to wait a while before having kids. They just had different definitions of how long ‘a while’ is. Anyways, marriage isn’t forever, just as long as you live. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always get a divorce.”

“Then why get married in the first place?” Ben asked.

“Good question, kiddo. Sometimes I’m not sure I know the answer to that.”

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“Hey, babe...You know how, during his sermon this morning, Pastor Novak was saying about free programs they have available at the church? I was thinking—”

“Well there’s your problem right there. You shouldn’t be thinking. You’re not good at it,” Crowley said, interrupting Dean with a smirk. He didn’t even look up from the book he was reading.

Dean chuckled weakly, though he didn’t find Crowley’s ‘joke’ funny at all. He was probably just overreacting though. His husband hadn’t meant that literally, he was just making a play on words. Right. “Good one. Seriously though, maybe we should give the marriage counseling a try. You haven’t seemed very happy lately. A little counseling wouldn’t hurt, right?”

“I haven’t been happy lately because I spend all my bloody time at work and then come home to a dirty house and mediocre dinner. You may have endless time to squander, but I do not. I’m not going to waste what little down time I do have talking to some bloody volunteer who probably didn’t even finish high school,” Crowley spat back, turning the page in his book.

“Then maybe we could try professional counseling? I really think it would help,” Dean suggested.

“I’m not wasting my hard earned money on some charlatan. Besides, what exactly do you think we need help with? I love you, you love me, makes a happy family or whatever. You do still love me, right?” Crowley asked, glancing up at Dean long enough to watch his face as he answered.

“Of course I do. You know that. I tell you every day. I don’t get why you even feel the need to ask, and that’s why I’d like us to get counseling.” Dean bit his bottom lip nervously, afraid he was pushing too hard.

“Dean, the horse is dead. Stop beating it or you’ll be cleaning up the mess.” Crowley went back to his book.

“What?”

“What are you, a moron? Are you telling me you’ve never heard the phrase ‘don’t beat a dead horse’?”

“Sorry, I’ll stop.” Dean sat in silence for a while, the only sound the turning of pages as crowley read. Ben was already asleep in bed. After a longing look at the TV, Dean picked up his manga with a soft sigh. Crowley didn’t like for any of them to watch ‘the idiot box’ as he called it, but he forbade it entirely when he was home. He said television was the number one factor in the ‘dumbing down’ of America. With another soft sigh, Dean settled back into the couch and opened his manga.

That was something else Crowley didn’t approve of; graphic novels. ‘It barely counts as reading if ninety percent of the damn thing is pictures’. But Dean happened to like his Japanese comics, and at least he was reading, right? As long as his husband didn’t find the tentacle porn Dean had hidden, manga would probably stay on the frowned-upon-but-not-forbidden list.

The one he was currently reading was Naruto, so he should be okay. Turning to the first page, he tried to remember where the last manga had left off. There was a summary, but it had been a while since he’d read the last one, and the summary wasn’t making much sense. Giving up, he went to the first chapter, hoping he’d remember more as he got into it.

“What the bloody hell do you have against reading?!” Crowley demanded, throwing his book down on the end table and jumping up to glower down at Dean.

“Nothing! What’s wrong?” Dean asked, eyes wide as he shrank back into the couch cushions. Maybe if he tried hard enough they could swallow him up and hide him from whatever he’d done wrong this time.

“First you keep yammering when I’m trying to read, then all that sighing and page flipping. How the bloody hell am I supposed to concentrate?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to. I’ll go upstairs so you can read in peace,” Dean offered.

“Oh, I see how it is. You just wanted an excuse to go to bed first so you could try to weasel out of your husbandly duties.”

“What? No, of course not. I just—”

Crowley cut Dean off. “You just better get your ass up there and be naked and waiting for me on the bed when I come. And awake.”

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Dean sat once more in front of the large wooden desk, hands fidgeting in his lap, gaze fixed on the wooden floor beneath his feet. He’d known Crowley would never go for counseling, but he’d given it a try anyway. After all, Crowley could’ve surprised him and agreed. He didn’t.

“So, how did it go? Are you here to schedule an appointment for counseling?” Pastor Novak asked.

“No, it didn’t go over so hot. He just got mad at me for asking. And I’ve tried to casually mention my concerns but he just brushes me off or makes it seem like I’m being unreasonable or melodramatic. He’s getting more violent and I just, I don’t know what to do, man.”

“That is concerning. Crowley and I are having lunch together tomorrow. With your permission, I’d really like to speak with him about this. I think he would be more objective about your concerns if they come from someone else. Don’t worry, I won’t tell him you’ve spoken with me. I’ll just point out some things I’ve noticed during services. Would that be acceptable?”

Dean considered for a long moment. It was true he wasn’t getting anywhere on his own, and maybe an outsider’s observations would get through to him where Dean couldn’t. After all, Crowley was all about his image. That was actually a pretty good idea. He wouldn’t want his actions to lower anyone’s opinion of him. “Yeah, okay. I think that might really help. Thank you, Pastor.”

“No need for thanks. It’s my job to keep my flock safe; soul, mind, and body.” Pastor Novak smiled.

“Even so, I’m still very grateful. You don’t know how much this means to me. I really want to be able to work things out between Crowley and I. Because if things don’t get better…”

“You’ll just try harder, right?” Pastor Novak supplied.

If I’m alive and not in the hospital, maybe, Dean thought to himself. But aloud, he just said, “Sure. Is it still okay if I use some of that leftover wood you mentioned? I think I’ve decided what I want to make for our anniversary.”

The pastor smiled. “Of course. Take as much as you need.”

Going down to the basement storage, Dean gathered some good pieces of wood. He’d never really tried it himself, but when he was young and Dad was off on a bender, Dean and Sam had stayed with their dad’s best friend, Uncle Bobby. He’d spent hours watching Uncle Bobby carve whistles and toy horses. When he’d taken Sam and Dean to church on Sunday, the only time they’d been since their mother died when Dean was four and Sam was a baby, Bobby gave the things he’d made to children there. While Dean wasn’t really superstitious, he equated carving with good feelings, love, and generosity. Maybe carving a picture frame by hand to give Crowley for their anniversary, after putting a picture of their family in it, would remind his husband how much they love each other and how happy they could be together.

Besides, if Crowley was waiting for him at home again, this time he’d have physical proof of why he’d stopped by the church.

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Dean leaned heavily on the cart as he made his way through the grocery store. His knees were in agony after last night, not to mention his ass, ribs, and… bruises. But none of the physical injuries hurt as much as the empty ache in his chest. Every fiber of his being was screaming at him to run, now. Pack what he could fit into the old, beat-up car he’d inherited from his dad that Crowley had never allowed him to fix up, drive straight to Ben’s school, pull him outta class, and just hit the road and never look back.

Yet there he was, shopping on a Friday instead of his usual Tuesday, because the roast, potatoes, and veggies that should’ve been enough for two dinners plus Saturday’s lunch, had wound up in the trash. After a detour to the floor first, of course, courtesy of Crowley. It had been the worst night yet, the only good thing being that Ben had gone to a friend’s house for the evening and didn’t get home until after the dinner fiasco and subsequent punishment were over. After he’d come to, Dean had even had time to clean up, shower, throw out his torn clothes and dig out the black, long-sleeved turtle-neck shirt Sammy had given him years ago. He’d never worn it before, since he didn’t like collars, but was grateful for having kept it because chatting with Mr. Chambers when he and his daughter Krissy had dropped Ben off would’ve been awkward without it.

Lost in thought, Dean was exiting the bread aisle, ready to make a u-turn into the cereal aisle, when he was literally jolted back to reality by a cart running into his. “Shit. Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention,” he apologized, heat rushing to his cheeks.

“Why are you apologizing when I’m the one who ran into you? The one at fault here is me. Sorry,” a gravelly voice replied.

Dean raised a hand to rub nervously over the soft, short hair at the base of his skull. “But if I had been watching where I was going, I coulda gotten outta the way and avoided the whole—” Happening to choose that moment to look up, Dean broke off in surprise. “Oh! Pastor Novak. I didn’t know you shopped here. Do you have a cold?”

The pastor laughed, warm and full and unlike anything Dean had ever heard before. It caused a light flutter in Dean’s chest as his breath hitched.

“No, I do not have a cold. This is my normal voice.”

“Really? You sound different, Pastor.”

“This isn’t church. Please, call me Cas.”

“Uh, that...wouldn’t be appropriate. Actually, I’m glad I ran into you. I really need to talk to you. Do you have a few minutes?”

“Again, I point out: I’m the one who plowed into you. Though there are better ways I’d rather do that. And for someone who looks like you? A few minutes, a few hours, you can have as much of my time as you’d like. Especially if you want to confess your sins and tell me you have a priest fetish,” Cas replied with a gummy grin.

Dean blinked, sure he must be blushing up to his eyebrows. “Err…nothing like that. I was just wondering what you and Crowley talked about yesterday. Because he was the worst he’s ever been when he got home. Accused me of tempting you or some sh— err, something. You know I’ve never even—” Dean couldn’t finish the sentence. Not honestly, at least. Because it was true yesterday; he’d never even considered anything ever happening between him and the pastor. But now...saying that wouldn’t be true. He’d never seen Pastor Novak anywhere other than church. Never seen him in a baggy t-shirt and jeans, with sandals on his bare feet. Never heard him speak in a gravelly voice that sounded like morning sex. Never even known his first name, let alone been asked to call him by it.

All of Crowley’s accusations flooded his mind and he was shamed to realize they were all true, even if he hadn’t known it when they’d been hurled at him. Well, not the ones about him cheating, because he’d never done that. But to find that he wanted Pastor Novak—Cas—just made everything a thousand times worse. He was every horrible thing his husband had said he was. The realization had him feeling like he couldn’t breathe and he gasped, pulling the turtle-neck away from his throat as he tried to force air past the constriction there.

Another hand grabbed his collar and pulled it down further, fully exposing the hand-shaped bruises around his neck. It was like a bucket of ice water dumped over his head and Dean jerked back, pulling his collar back into place.

“Is that what you meant about ‘the worst he’s ever been’? I don’t care who this Crowley is, that is not okay! You can’t be with someone who treats you like that!” Cas’s sapphire gaze narrowed and Dean had never seen a look of such pure loathing on the pastor’s face.

“He’s my husband,” Dean stated. Pastor Novak had never cared whether couples were same sex, interracial, or had age differences. What he cared about was the dedication couples showed to their marriages. He firmly believed that once promised, forever bound. Til death do you part.

“What the f—” Cas stopped himself, taking a big breath and visibly forcing himself to calm down. “Husband or not, no human has a right to abuse another. At least, not without express consent. Is choking something you’re into?”

“Of course not. Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with liking that. I sure as hell don’t have any right to judge. But it’s definitely not my thing. Anyway, what happened to ‘marriage is a bridge’ and all that?”

“What good is a bridge that leads to pain and death? Those bruises are nasty. He was really trying to kill you.”

“He stopped,” Dean protested. True, it hadn’t been until after Dean passed out, but Crowley had stopped. He’d even apologized before heading out to the bar to cool off. And even when he’d come home drunk, he’d been mostly gentle with Dean, other than the bruises he’d left on Dean’s wrists. That didn’t excuse what he’d done though. And it didn’t mean he wouldn’t go too far next time. Why was he getting so defensive and making excuses? Hadn’t he just been thinking to himself that he should be grabbing Ben and leaving?

“This time. You said it’s been getting worse, right? If he’s escalating, what’s the next step after almost killing you?” Cas had his arms crossed over his chest and was giving Dean a very stern look that was much more in line with how he normally looked in church.

“But what can I do? It’s not like I can force him to stop,” Dean said softly, gaze dropping to the floor. There was a grimey discount sticker stuck to the wheel of his cart. Discarded and useless, it clung to the wheel as though it had found a new purpose for itself; tagging along for the ride as it rolled through dusty aisles, spills, and dirty puddles in the parking lot.

“That’s right. You can’t make him change. The only way to keep yourself safe is to not let him near you. First though, you need to file a police report and get those bruises documented. Get a restraining order, change the locks, and don’t let him back in.” Cas started toward the checkout counters, pushing his own cart and pulling Dean’s.

“I’m not done shopping,” Dean protested, though he followed meekly after his cart.

“Oh, right. Okay, we can talk while you finish your shopping. But the sooner we get started on getting you out of danger, the better.” Cas released Dean’s cart, falling back with his own to let Dean lead.

“I am worried about my safety, and Ben’s, but I can’t do any of the stuff you just said. For one, Crowley’s the D.A.—he’s not gonna approve a restraining order against himself. And B, he’s my husband. I still love him.”

“Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to like them, or approve of the things they do. You said it yourself; you can’t force him to change. He has to want to change. But as long as there are no consequences for his actions, why would he stop?” Cas asked as Dean turned up the cereal aisle to pick up pancake batter and Ben’s favorite cereal.

“What if he’s just testing me, wanting me to prove my love? Maybe once he’s sure of my feelings, he’ll stop,” Dean suggested.

“If he doesn’t trust you, he’ll never be at ease. Even if he stops after going too far yesterday, it’ll happen again as soon as the mistrust outweighs the guilt. But I can’t force you to change any more than you can force him to. You’ve been coming to me for advice, right?” Cas asked, and Dean nodded. “So please, take my advice. If you aren’t willing to leave him yet, at least document the bruises. It doesn’t have to be at the police station if you’re worried about him finding out. Just let me take a picture with my phone, so you have some evidence.”

“I don’t really want a reminder, and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with you having a picture of that.” They’d made it down several aisles. Dean grabbed Ben’s favorite ice cream bars and a few bags of frozen peas piling them on top of the box of fruit snacks he’d grabbed for Ben’s lunches.

“Hey, I’m not going to let anyone see it. But if something happens to you, I’d like to have something to take to the police. Because if he kills you, who do you think will be the next target of his anger? You have a kid, Ben, right?”

Dean stopped, blinking at the pastor. “Yeah. You know that. I told you he started getting worse after we adopted Ben.”

“I must be getting forgetful in my old age,” Cas said, grinning sheepishly.

Dean blushed as his heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t believe how much more attractive Pastor Novak was when he wasn’t at church. “You’re not old,” he mumbled as he resumed his shopping. Just one more stop for milk, cheese, and eggs, then they headed for the checkout counters.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” Cas had handed his cloth sacks to the bagger and was putting things from his cart on the conveyor belt, adding a divider when he was done then starting on the few things in Dean’s.

“Thought about? Yes. Decided? No. I’m scared. I’m scared to stay, but I’m even more scared to leave. He’d use his connections to get custody of Ben. Plus, he makes all the money and owns the house. I never even graduated high school.” Dean frowned, his gaze drifting back down to the sticker stuck to its wheel, standing still at the moment. Soon it would be going around in circles again.

“The most important thing is your safety, and Ben’s. Legalities can be dealt with once you’re out of immediate danger. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to work on gathering some evidence to support your case for custody and a restraining order. For when it gets to the point where you’re ready to leave him.” Cas paid for his groceries and put the bags in his cart while the cashier began ringing up Dean’s items.

“So, you think it’s okay to stay?”

“Honestly? No, I don’t. But if you leave him, it has to be your decision, not mine. I got the impression you weren’t quite ready to take that step yet.”

“He apologized last night. I can’t remember the last time he did that, if he’s ever done it at all. Maybe what happened scared him and things will be better now.” Dean paid for the groceries with Crowley’s credit card and put his plastic bags full of food in his cart.

“I hope so, but I’d like you to do three things for me,” Cas said as they headed toward the parking lot. “One, I’d like to shop with you once a week, so we can talk freely. Don’t talk about this at church anymore, okay?”

“Yeah, that actually sounds nice. Like a friend. I don’t have any of those.”

Cas smiled, patting Dean on the shoulder. “Well, you have one now. The second thing I want is for you to memorize a couple phone numbers. Don’t put them in your phone or write them down, just memorize them. The first is 1-800-799-SAFE. That’s the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The second number is my personal line. Any time, night or day, you can call me for anything, whether it’s just to talk or you need help.”

Dean went over both numbers several times, trying to commit them to memory. The hotline number was easy. One, then eight-hundred, then eight-hundred-minus-one which is seven hundred ninety-nine, then SAFE. Cas’s personal number was a bit harder but Cas helped him think of some associations for the numbers to help him remember. By the time they got to his Impala, he was pretty confident he’d remember them. “Hey, didn’t you say there were three things?” he asked as he put the bags in the back seat. “What’s the third?”

“If you feel threatened, if you’re in immediate danger, promise me you’ll call 911.”

Dean swallowed, thinking. He’d felt threatened and in immediate danger last night and hadn’t even thought about calling 911. That might not be a promise he could keep. Cops coming to the house would be a big hassle and Crowley would just send them away. Besides, if he was the only one in danger, it didn’t matter. As long as Ben didn’t see and try to interfere.

“Hey, you are important. Your life is important. Please. Promise me.” The pastor’s deep blue gaze pinned Dean to the side of the Impala where he was leaning.

After a minute, Dean licked his lips and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. I promise.” Pastor Novak was wrong, though. He wasn’t important. Dean was nothing but a high school dropout and a screwup who no one but Sammy had ever given two shits about until he’d somehow lucked out and managed to catch Crowley’s eye. But he’d promised, so he’d do it. Only if he had to, though.

He let the pastor take a picture of the bruises on his neck, then reluctantly lifted his shirt so he could photograph the ones on his ribs too. Dean didn’t think he’d need them though. Things were gonna be better after Crowley scared himself last night. He really hadn’t meant to go that far. Even so, Dean agree to shop with the pastor next week, on Dean’s normal Tuesday shopping day instead of Cas’s Friday. It was good to be able to talk to him as a friend rather than as the stern and judgmental Pastor Novak.

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A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

“You’re here,” Dean said, breaking into a smile.

“I said I would be.” Pastor Novak raised an eyebrow and tilted his head. “Do you think I’m a liar?”

“Sorry, no, I wasn’t trying to imply—”

“Relax. I’m just teasing. You know, you don’t need to apologize so much, either. Here. I brought you something.” The pastor handed Dean a paper bag, then pulled a cart from the nested row in the entryway. When Dean moved to get one for himself, Cas put a hand on his chest to stop him, shaking his head. “I’ll push the cart and get your groceries. You are going to be concentrating on what’s in the bag.”

“...Tell me it’s not a severed head.” Dean chuckled, though his movie reference didn’t quite fit.

“It is not a severed head. If it was, it would be in a box, not a bag,” Cas deadpanned.

Dean broke out into a full laugh and looked inside the bag as they walked into the grocery store. “A notebook?” he asked, taking it out.

“Yes, and a soft grip pen. You seem to be in a good mood today, and I don’t want to dampen that, but I would like you to write down things that have been happening, both good and bad. I will keep it for you and bring it when we go shopping for you to add to, so you don’t have to worry about Crowley ever seeing it. And I promise I won’t read it either. Not without your permission. But like I said on Friday, I think it’s important for there to be some record of what’s been happening, even if it’s not official.”

“Uh, yeah. Okay, but I’m not sure what to write. English wasn’t my—actually, ‘s more like school wasn’t my best subject.” Dean stared at the hardcover, spiral bound notebook, loving the black, ‘69 Ford Mustang picture on the front cover. How did he know Dean liked classic cars? Had he just guessed after seeing Dean’s rusty old Impala last week?

“Well, start with putting your name and a brief summary of what the journal is for on the first page. Then think back to the first time things started going bad and start writing from there. You can write it like a letter to someone or just a statement of what happened. It doesn’t have to be fancy or win any writing awards, it only needs to be truthful.” Cas watched Dean write as they began walking through the fruits and veggies section. “Do you have a shopping list, or will you be just telling me what to get?”

“Oh, right. Just a sec.” Dean finished up the first page and turned to the next before digging his list out of his pocket. He glanced around the section they were in and pointed to a sale display as he handed it over. “The list just says ‘fruit’. I usually check out what’s on sale and if they look good, I get them. Two packages of those strawberries should work. I’ll make strawberry shortcake.”

“Alright, Dean. You keep writing, I’ll shop.” They took their time going up and down the aisles, Cas occasionally asking about brand or flavor of items on the list. By the time they’d made it to the frozen foods aisle, Dean had filled several pages and Cas had filled three quarters of the cart.

“How is the writing coming?” Cas asked as he peered through the fogged glass of a recently opened freezer door, trying to determine if the right frozen waffles were there.

“Slow. You said go back to the first time, so I started with our wedding night, when he’d had a bit too much to drink. That was both a good and bad memory. Once I started writing things down, turns out there were more incidents than I realized. I still haven’t even gotten to when we adopted Ben yet. My hand’s starting to cramp.” Dean slid the pen into the large spiral ring, clipping it so it didn’t slide through, then shook out his hand.

“You can stop for today and continue next week, if you want.”

“Yeah, sure. Dunno if my wrist would put up with much more writing anyways.”

“How have things been since Friday?” Cas asked, waffles in cart as he headed toward the frozen burger patties.

“Better. A lot better, actually. He brought me flowers when he came home Friday night; Red roses and asters. I didn’t expect him to have remembered asters are my favorite flower. We each wore a pink aster at our wedding, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t even mentioned flowers since then. And he was extra gentle with me all weekend. He must’ve apologized a million times.”

“That’s good, Dean. I’m glad things are going better for you. Just, please be careful. Abuse is a hard pattern to break, especially if he doesn’t have anyone helping him try. You know him best. If it seems like he’s getting violent, maybe give him a subtle reminder of what happened last time he got mad. Scratch your neck or something. Or try to divert his anger, give him some other outlet for it. Bottom line though, keep yourself safe,” Cas said as he grabbed the last item on the list and they headed toward the checkout.

“I’ll try. But I’m hopin’ the better mood he’s been in will keep up. It’s almost like it was when we first started dating.” Dean sighed softly, eyes looking up as he remembered what those early days of happiness had been like. “I didn’t realize how much I missed that Crowley. He was so sweet and funny back then.”

Cas sighed too as they joined the line for the only non-self-checkout open. “It’s good that you can remember how the spark started, just don’t forget that he’s changed since then. You have too. We all change over time.”

“Yeah, I get that. But maybe he can change back.”

Shaking his head slowly, Cas gave a rueful smile. “Time only flows in one direction. We can’t relive good times from the past. All we can do is try to find happiness in the present and look forward to new joys in the future.”

“Assuming there is a future,” Dean mumbled, then shook his head. Things were good; why get all pessimistic?

“Dean, as long as you look out for yourself and call 911 if you’re in danger, there is definitely a future. Whether Crowley is in yours may be in question, but the fact that you have one is not. And I am here for you. Whatever you need, call me and I’ll be there. Remember, you aren’t alone. And you have Ben to think about too. Does your family know what has been happening?” Cas asked.

“It’s just my brother, Sammy,” Dean replied, shaking his head, “and he’s having troubles with his own marriage. I don’t want to bother him with my problems.”

“Have I met him?” Cas asked, head cocking quizzically.

“Nah, he don’t care for church. I think that’s our dad’s influence. Mom used to take us all every Sunday, but after she died, Dad kinda blamed God, so he never went again. Uncle Bobby took us once, but Sam didn’t see the point of it. He was too little when Mom died to remember how happy she was at church. So, I guess it doesn’t mean as much to him as it does to me.”

“Well, God doesn’t only live in church. God can be found anywhere if you just look. I’m sure your brother has his own beliefs to give him comfort. But regardless of what is happening in his own life, wouldn’t he be sad to find out you didn’t trust him with something as important as your husband dangerously mistreating you?”

Hanging his head, Dean ran a hand over his neck. “Yeah, I guesso. But I just don’t know how to talk to him about this. I mean, I’m the older brother. I’m supposed to have my shit together so he can be the one coming to me with his problems, not the other way around.”

“Everyone needs someone to listen, no matter who they are. Even me.” The line had finally moved forward enough for Cas to start putting things from the cart onto the conveyor belt.

“Really? Who does a priest confide in?”

“I confide in my best friend, Meg. Mostly. But for the big things, life changing things, I talk to my brother. We’re very different, so we don’t get along well, but we’re still close in a lot of ways.”

“You don’t get along, but you’re close? How does that work?” Dean asked as Cas pulled the cart forward for the bagger to put the groceries in.

“We have different philosophies when it comes to religion, society, politics, almost everything. But we were raised in a very strict home. When I...told my family how I wanted to live my life, it didn’t go over too well. My mother had other plans for me, but there was no way I could ever have followed her path. Jimmy, my brother, stood up for me and we were nearly disowned. But since he chose a parent-approved path, they wanted him. And he said if they disowned me, they had to disown him too. So we’re both still technically in the family, though I only go to family functions when Jimmy drags me. That’s just when everyone’s going to be there, though; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. It’s easier to avoid my parents that way, plus it’s the only time I get to see our other siblings, and some cousins that I don’t mind.”

“Sounds like you got a pretty big family,” Dean commented as he slid Crowley’s debit card into the reader.

“Yes, there are quite a few. In our immediate family, Jimmy and I have an older brother named Balthazar, two younger sisters, Anna and Hannah, and the youngest, Inias. I don’t even know all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. The only ones who show up regularly are my father’s sister and her kids, Michael, Luke, Gabriel, and Raphael.”

“Some of those names sound pretty unique.” Dean handed his notebook and pen to Cas, then pushed the full cart out the doors.

“They’re all biblical in some way. It’s a family tradition. I’m named after the angel of Thursday, Castiel.” Cas tucked the notebook into the messenger bag he wore over one shoulder and across his chest.

“Jimmy doesn’t sound very biblical. Neither does Anna,” Dean pointed out as they reached his car and he began piling the groceries into the back seat.”

“It’s actually James, named after the book of the Bible. And Anna was a woman who prophesied about Jesus. You’d be surprised how many common names can be found in the Bible.”

“Yeah? What about Dean? Or Sam?”

“Dean isn’t directly from the Bible, although it’s the title given to some clerics in positions of power in the church. More commonly, it’s derived from the English last name Dean, which comes from the Old English word denu, which means valley. As for Sam, the most notable Samuel in the Bible was the one who annointed the first King of Israel, Saul, if I remember right.”

“Huh. You know a lot about names.”

“I know a lot about the Bible and Christian religion. It’s how I was raised,” Cas replied.

“Not to mention, it’s kinda your job, right?” Dean added.

Cas knit his brows together for a moment, then drew in a quick breath. “Oh, right. It is good knowledge for a pastor to have. You should probably head home now. Being late would be bad, right?”

Nodding, Dean gave Pastor Novak a warm smile. “Yeah. Today was nice though, I had a good time.”

“Me too, Dean. Shall we meet here at the same time next week?” Cas asked.

“Definitely. See you then.” Dean climbed into his car, waving to Cas as he headed out of the parking lot. Feeling like things were finally going in a good direction, he turned up the volume on the radio, tapping the wheel and singing along to BTO’s ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’.

Chapter Text

A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

“Good morning, babe. Happy anniversary,” Dean said, smiling over his shoulder at his husband before flipping the pancake he had cooking in the pan. The past few weeks had been pretty good, with only the occasional temper flare from Crowley, which resulted in yelling, but not in violence.

One of the flares had been at another suggestion of getting marriage counseling. Dean had thought, after two weeks of good moods, the idea might go over better. It didn’t. The other angry outbursts were when Dean tried a new recipe for dinner without asking and when Dean hadn’t been home one day when Crowley got back from work. He’d told his husband about the play Ben was in, even reminded him that morning, but Crowley hadn’t gone to the performance and he’d been pissed when Dean and Ben got home at nine thirty with a couple of pizzas.

Still, considering it had been three and a half weeks since the choking incident, those few outbursts weren’t bad. And today was their five year anniversary. It was going to be a good day.

Crowley came up behind Dean,wrapping his arms around his waist and tucking his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans. “Happy anniversary,” he said, kissing Dean’s bare shoulder. “Something smells good. Are you making breakfast for the rugrat?”

Dean grinned, though Crowley couldn’t see it, and slid an arm over the ones encircling his middle. “Nope. Ben’s already gone for the day. This breakfast is just for you an’ me.”

“Nice. Who’d you pawn the tyke off on?”

“He’s spending the day with Grandma Ro,” Dean replied, pulling the bacon in the other frying pan off the fire; nice and soft, just the way Crowley liked it.

“He’s with my mother?” Crowley’s growl was deeper and his voice was raised just a little, a familiar tone that had Dean’s body tensing beneath the arms tightening over his stomach.

“Uh, she offered? And I thought it would be nice to spend the day together, just us. If that’s not okay, I can go pick him up, just say we wanted to spend the day as a family?”

“No, you can’t. She would think I don’t trust her to look after my son.” Crowley abruptly released Dean and stepped away to pace back and forth on the other side of the kitchen island.

“Not if there’s a valid reason. Why can’t she look after Ben? It’s just one day.” Dean knew Crowley didn’t like his mom much, but he’d never kept her from seeing their son. Still, it was true that she’d never been alone with him.

“Because I don’t bloody trust her, that’s why!” Crowley shouted.

Dean flinched. “Sorry,” he mumbled around a shaky breath. He’d wanted their anniversary to be perfect but it was already starting off on the wrong foot. He turned back to the stove to hide the tears that were not gathering in his eyes, and flipped the pancake again. Of course it was nearly burned. Perfect.

Sighing, Crowley came around the island and put a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You couldn’t have known, since I never told you. It’s fine for today, but in the future, do not leave him alone with her. Just as a precaution. She’ll probably be better as a grandmother than she ever was as a mother. She bloody well has to be. I doubt she could be any worse. Now, let’s eat before this crap gets cold.” Crowley went back to the island and sat down expectantly.

Dean immediately made a cup of coffee and slid it over to him, then quickly poured batter into the frying pan for a fresh pancake for Crowley. After he’d flipped it, he put the pan of bacon back on for thirty seconds, just enough to warm it back up, then slid most of the bacon onto a plate. The pancake joined it and he took it to his husband, along with silverware and a napkin. The butter was already on the counter since Crowley prefered his at room temperature, and the syrup joined it.

Once Crowley had his food, Dean put the luke-warm, overcooked pancake and remaining bacon on his own plate, then joined his husband, who had already finished half of his meal. They ate in tense silence until Crowley said he wanted another pancake. Dean jumped up from his half-eaten food and made a fresh one for him, sliding the perfectly browned disk onto Crowley’s plate before going back to the rest of his own meal.

It was cold by then, but Dean didn’t care. Reheating it would just draw attention to himself. Besides, Crowley hated microwaves, so he’d have to heat it in the toaster oven. That would mean switching it from the plate to the toaster’s tray and back, which took longer and meant more dishes for him to wash by hand—no dishwasher because how could a bloody machine spitting a bit of soap and water at them possibly clean dishes as well as good old fashioned elbow grease?

So Dean just sat quietly and ate his cold pancake. Crowley had ‘playfully’ swiped his last half-slice of bacon while Dean was cooking. He’d had such high hopes for the day, but...No. Winchesters didn’t cry. Especially not over emotional crap. Just because they were off to a bad start didn’t mean the rest of the day couldn’t get better. Besides, even when he’d gotten pissed, Crowley hadn’t hurt him. Not physically, anyways. That was promising, right?

When Crowley set his fork down on his plate with finality, Dean shoved the last couple bites into his mouth then stood. Grabbing both their plates, he took them to the sink and let the water run on them while he fixed his husband a new cup of coffee. He turned back to the sink, wet the sponge and shut off the water. Adding a bit of dish soap, he lathered up the sponge, picked up the first plate, and began washing off the sticky syrup.

“Leave them.”

“What?” Dean asked, turning to look at his husband.

“The dishes. Leave them. Today’s your anniversary too, right? Don’t worry about cleanup. Come sit back down and have a cup of coffee with me. You can wash the dishes tomorrow.” Crowley smiled at Dean, obviously trying to be generous. He probably didn’t know the syrup would be harder to get off after congealing on the plates for a day.

Reluctantly wringing the water and soap from the sponge, Dean set it back in its holder and picked up the half-finished cup of coffee he’d had from before he started cooking. Drawing the line at drinking cold coffee, Dean emptied it into the sink and poured a fresh cup, then went back to his chair at the island.

“So, what kinds of plans did you have for today?” Crowley asked as he sat.

“Well, I didn’t know if you were planning on anything, so I just thought, other than anything you want to do, we could cuddle up together on the couch and watch movies.”

“Quite the imagination you’ve got there. Not sure I can handle that much excitement.” Crowley smirked.

Dean frowned. “Like I said, I wasn’t sure what you had planned, and I wasn’t going to make plans for you without asking, so…”

“Well, you’re right there. And, fortunately for you, I have an idea of how we could spend the day. Wait here; I’ll get your present.” Crowley patted Dean on the shoulder before heading for the garage.

While he was gone, Dean went around the island to pull his own present for Crowley from the bottom cupboard. The carving hadn’t quite come out like he’d pictured it in his head, but the photo frame was solid, and the hounds he’d tried to carve on either side were at least recognizable as dogs. After a lot of waffling he’d decided to go with a wedding photo rather than a family one that included Ben. Not that Ben wasn’t an important part of their family, but Dean thought, being the anniversary of the day they married, that a wedding photo would be better. At least, he hoped it would.

Setting the present on the island in front of Crowley’s seat, Dean refilled both of their coffees, then sat back down to wait. He wondered where his husband could have hidden his present that took so long to get. Finally, Crowley returned, setting his present to the right of Dean’s as he sat and took a sip of his coffee.

“Tea would have been better. I’ve already had two cups,” he commented, setting his mug back down. “So, what’s this?” he asked, indicating the present from Dean.

“It’s your present from me. But I can open yours first, if you want.”

“Nah, let’s get this one out of the way. Once you open yours, I thought we could go upstairs and try it out.”

Dean raised his eyebrows at that, but Crowley didn’t elaborate, just picked up the silver wrapped package and tore off the delicate, sheer gold ribbon Dean had wrapped around it in a cross and tied into a bow. On opening the box, he pulled away the tissue paper Dean had wrapped over it to keep the glass protected.

“What the hell is this?” Crowly growled, frowning.

“It’s our wedding picture,” Dean replied softly, face falling.

“You were conspiring with that damned pastor over a month ago to come up with this? A ten cent thrift-store frame around a picture that I paid for?”

“Uh, no. I used some leftover wood from the church and carved the frame myself. I thought you’d like it. See? It even has hounds, like Juliet.”

“Oh, thanks. Just what I need. Badly carved reminders of my long-dead, beloved pet. You could have gotten me something useful, like my present for you,” Crowley groused, handing over the long rectangular box he’d brought in for Dean.

Accepting the box nervously, Dean set it on the island counter in front of him and slid a finger under the seam of the red foil wrapping paper Crowley had used.

“Oh, for hell’s sake, it’s wrapping paper. You’re not going to reuse it; just rip it off.” Crowley ripped the paper off himself, not bothering to wait for Dean.

With a soft sigh, Dean opened the box, pulling the tissue paper away from the item inside. Like Dean’s present, it was made of wood. Unlike Dean’s, it was not a sweet reminder of happy times together. “Is this a…”

“A paddle. Yes. I thought we could spice things up a bit. And the fifth anniversary is the ‘wood’ anniversary, right? We can use this wood to give us wood. Designed it myself. See? It’s even got a cutout in the shape of a heart right in the middle, so your red ass will have heart patches all over it. Doesn’t that get you all hot?” It definitely seemed to get Crowley hot. He grabbed Dean’s wrist and pulled him closer, placing Dean’s hand on the growing bulge in his trousers as he sucked and nipped at Dean’s neck.

“I don’t think—”

“You’re right. You don’t think. And that’s just fine. I can do the thinking for both of us. Bedroom. Now.”

Chapter Text

A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

Dean sighed, putting a bookmark in his manga before tossing it onto the nightstand. He was lying on his stomach in bed, and he was sick of the position. Crossing his arms in front of him, he rested his cheek on them, thinking.

In some ways, things were still better. It had been over a week since their anniversary and Crowley hadn’t lost his temper once. But Dean suspected that might be because he was blowing off steam another way. Crowley loved the present he gave Dean. Dean detested it. Every night he was ordered to strip and get on the bed. Then Crowley would put a folded towel over his ass to muffle the thwacks, and paddle Dean over and over, as hard as he could. He made a game of it, taunting Dean, trying to make him cry out and wake Ben. But Dean held his voice no matter how hard Crowley hit.

That first Saturday, with the house to themselves, there was no one to hear as Dean cried and begged his husband to stop. But Crowley didn’t listen. He would reach around and grab Dean’s cock, saying if he didn’t like it he wouldn’t be hard. But it wasn’t the pain that Dean got off on, it was the way Crowley kept telling him how good he was, how perfect, and how beautiful Dean looked with his ass all red, dotted with light, flesh-colored hearts. When Crowley had finally tossed the paddle aside and fucked him into the mattress, Dean had come, hard.

But he didn’t like it. He hated it. He liked Crowley’s mood, and the praise and the tenderness Crowley treated him with afterwards, but he abhorred the ‘scenes’ as Crowley called them. Dean didn’t know much about S&M or Dom/Sub relationships, but he did know they were supposed to be consensual on both sides, and Dean did not consent. But Crowley didn’t allow him to refuse.

Checking the clock, Dean sighed. It was eleven and he was supposed to meet Sam for lunch at noon, then go grocery shopping with Cas at one thirty. Last week he’d told Sam he wasn’t feeling well and got permission from Crowley to have the groceries delivered. He just hadn’t been up to leaving the house. He should have called Cas to let him know he wouldn’t be there, but he couldn’t risk it. Crowley checked Dean’s phone all the time. He didn’t even try to hide it, just picked it up and browsed through. They’d gone to church two days ago though, so at least Cas knew he was okay. Even if sitting on the hard wooden pew had been agony.

This week, though, he really needed to go. Not just so his brother wouldn’t worry, either. He needed to talk to Cas. The new daily routine had to stop, but Dean didn’t know how to stop it on his own.

Over the past few weeks, Dean had filled more than half of the notebook Cas had given him, which he brought for Dean to write in every week. It was basically a journal of his marriage and he’d made sure to include all the good, happy times he could remember. There were quite a few. However, there were far more instances of abuse, both physical and mental. Marriage was supposed to be a partnership, but sometimes Crowley acted like he’d bought himself a slave with his ring.

Dean wasn’t a slave, though. Even if he’d never thought he’d amount to much and never made plans beyond getting Sammy into college, he was still his own person. He might not know exactly who that person was, but it sure as hell wasn’t whatever Crowley wanted. He owed it to himself and to Ben to be brave enough to leave.

With a heavy sigh, Dean slid over to the side of the bed and got to his feet. His ass was still sore as hell, but as long as Crowley was paddling him every night, it wasn’t gonna get any better. He needed advice from Cas. And he needed to take the advice Cas had already given him and tell Sam.




“Dean! Are you alright?” Cas exclaimed, dashing over to Dean’s Impala when he parked at the grocery store before he’d even gotten out.

Having already opened the door, Dean carefully swung one foot out, then the other. “Yeah. -Ish, at least. Sorry I couldn’t call last week to let you know I wouldn’t be here.”

“I understand why you couldn’t. Maybe if you have to miss a day again, you could leave a message for me with the store’s service counter? Just so I know you’re at least alive?”

Dean smacked his forehead. “Why didn’t I think of that? I could have done that when I ordered the groceries to be delivered. Sorry, I’m so stupid.”

“You aren’t stupid and there’s no need to apologize. I hadn’t thought of it until just now either. It can be hard to think of something like that when you are stressed or under duress. Speaking of which, if you’re ever being watched while you order groceries, you could slip a small note in with the delivery person’s tip,” Cas suggested.

“He’s usually at work during the day on weekdays. Last week I was just...too sore to go out. Still am. Almost didn’t go out today either, but I needed to see you. And Sam. I told him at lunch today. He was all set to drag me home and start packing. It took a lot of talking to get him to let me handle it.”

“It’s good that your brother is supportive of you leaving, though. You’re still sore more than a week later?” Cas asked, offering a hand to help Dean out of the car.

“After every night, more than a week later,” Dean clarified, accepting the help. “He gave me a present for him for our anniversary and he hasn’t missed a night of using it since.”

Cas raised an eyebrow as they started slowly toward the store.

“A wooden paddle. His mood’s been much better; no angry outbursts, but it’s not...I don’t like it,” Dean explained as Cas handed over his notebook and pulled out a shopping cart.

“Did you tell him that?”

“Yeah, lots of times. He doesn’t listen. I just...I don’t know what to do.” Dean handed his list to Cas then opened his notebook and began writing down the incidents that had happened since he’d last written two weeks ago.

“Dean, I can’t tell you what to do. You have to decide what you want. Once you know that, I can help you accomplish your goal, but deciding on the goal has to be your choice.” Cas went to the sale racks in the fruits and veggies section and began looking over the choices. “Blueberries, raspberries, or cherries?”

Looking up from his writing, Dean glanced at the prices. “All three. And if the strawberries are under three dollars, a package of those too. I’ll make cherry-berry salad.”

“That sounds delicious.” Cas was silent for a while as he chose the best-looking fruits. “Have you given any thought to what you’ll do?”

Thinking over the weight of that question, Dean gazed down at the blurry words on the page he’d been writing on. “Lots. Just haven’t come to any decisions. Is it weird that I want to leave more now than I did when his temper was violent and unpredictable? I mean, he’s being so much nicer to me, but--”

“It’s not weird at all, Dean. Fear and pain happening once every week or two has time to fade. I think dreading every night and being constantly aching would be much harder to bear.”

Wiping a flannel sleeve over his eyes, Dean shook his head. “But what he’s doing now isn’t even wrong. Legally. Right? Not like nearly lethal violent outbursts.”

“It’s still abuse,” Cas said as they made their way down the next aisle.

“BDSM is legal, isn’t it?”

“Consensual BDSM is, yes. But you have not given your consent, have you?”

Dean shook his head.

“Then it’s not legal. And it’s not right. You deserve to be able to live without fear or pain. His violence was getting progressively worse when it was caused by temper. Do you think it won’t escalate now that he’s channeled it into something he thinks is acceptable? How long do you think he’ll be happy with the paddle before he wants to try something else? Handcuffs? Whips? Hot wax? Do you think you would be safe with him using more dangerous BDSM equipment?”

“But what can I do? I mean, if I leave him, how will Ben and I live? Assuming I can even get custody, which, like I said, he’s got friends all over the justice system.”

“What did you do before you met him?” Cas asked.

“I worked for Uncle Bobby, fixin’ cars. But he didn’t approve of my choice of spouse, and he was pretty pissed when I quit. Honestly, I wanted to keep workin’, but Crowley didn’t want people thinkin’ he couldn’t support his husband.” Dean rubbed over his neck, absently noticing they’d gotten the cart with the grimy sale sticker again. After weeks of spinning on its wheel, it was so degraded that the words were no longer readable and the color was all but gone.

“Don’t you think your uncle would forgive you, especially since you’re leaving the husband he didn’t approve of?”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know. But even if he did, I couldn’t go back to workin’ for him. He replaced me. He doesn’t have the money to hire on an extra employee and I wouldn’t let him cut someone’s hours to make room for me. Besides, what if Crowley starts a smear campaign against Singer Auto? Fuck, what if he does that for any place that hires me? I already screwed up my own life, I don’t wanna be screwing things up for other people too.”

“You aren’t responsible for his actions, Dean,” Cas insisted as he continued filling the cart.

“How am I not, if they’re in response to something I do?”

“Let me ask you this. If you put this jar of pickles in the cart and I took it out and smashed it on the floor, whose fault would the mess be?”

“Mine. I shouldn’t have put it in the cart.”

“Why not? They’re your groceries. Can’t you decide to get pickles if you want? And even if they were my groceries, I didn’t have to throw them on the floor. I could have taken them out and put them back on the shelf, or asked you to remove them, or handed them back to you. I could’ve left them in the cart until I got to the checkout and then had the cashier put them back for me.”

“Then I’d be responsible for giving the cashier more work.”

“No, I would. If I didn’t want the pickles, I could have just thrown them on the floor. Or any of those other options I mentioned. The point is, once you’ve put them in the cart, how I react to that is my choice. Does that make sense?”

“Uh...no? Because you wouldn’t have to react at all if I hadn’t put them in the cart in the first place.”

“Well, then we go to why did you put them in the cart?”

“You never said why I did it.”

“Because the point that I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t matter what preceded the action, the person performing the action is responsible for it. But for argument’s sake, you put the pickles in the cart because I said pickles were on the list.”

“Then why did you throw them on the floor? I’m confused.”

“They weren’t the kind I wanted. It doesn’t matter, the point--”

“Okay, still my fault then; I put the wrong kind in the cart.”

“But I didn’t tell you what kind of pickles to get,” Cas huffed, exasperated.

“Then I should have asked what kind.”

“See, this is the problem. We could hypothetically go through a hundred different precursors to me throwing the pickles on the floor and you would always come up with the same answer. You put the blame on yourself whether you’re acting or reacting. If you’re going to play the blame game, then if Crowley retaliates against anyone who helps you, and you think it’s because you left him, you could take it one step further and put the blame back on him because his dangerous and unfair treatment of you is why you left in the first place.”

“...I think I’m starting to see now. You’re saying it doesn’t matter who’s to blame, or what you’re reacting to, only the person acting is responsible for the action.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. So, when you leave him, you are not responsible for how he reacts. You can control your own actions, not his. So, what are you going to do?” Cas asked.

Dean sighed, running a hand through his hair as he stared at the sad little sticker on the cart’s wheel. “What do I need to do before I leave?”

Chapter Text

A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

When Dean got home, he put the groceries away quickly while mentally going over the plans Cas had helped him make. He was going to pack a ‘go’ bag and hide it in with the spare tire under the bottom of the Impala’s trunk. It was mainly for if he had to leave in a hurry; a few changes of clothes for him and Ben, photos he had of his mom, Sammy when he was little, Uncle Bobby with Sam and Dean, and Lisa when they’d first met, plus a couple of her and Ben together. He even, grudgingly, decided to take the photo of his dad holding Sammy with Dean at his side.

Those things were easy to pack. They didn’t take up much space, and Crowley wouldn’t notice them missing. The hardest part would be getting the papers he needed from the fireproof safe. Crowley had never given him the combination and he couldn’t just make copies so his husband wouldn’t know they were gone. He needed the originals: birth certificates, Social Security cards, and Ben’s adoption papers. Fortunately, the safe wasn’t electronic, so Dean could keep trying combinations until he got it. Once he got it open and removed the papers though, if Crowley happened to look inside for anything, he was sure to notice the missing documents.

It was a risk Dean had to take, though. Because he was leaving. He hadn’t decided on when yet, but it was coming.

As they shopped, Cas and Dean had talked through how to leave, what it entailed, and what preparations Dean needed to make. He planned on waiting at least a few days before leaving to give himself time to make sure everything was ready. As long as nothing major happened in the meantime.

When they’d gotten to the car with the groceries, Cas had suggested documenting Dean’s current bruises. It was embarrassing, letting the pastor see and take pictures of his ass, especially in the parking lot, though he stood between the door and the car so that no one else could see. When he’d carefully inched his pants down over his sore skin, Cas let out a gasp. He took a number of pictures, even pulling Dean’s pants and underwear out a bit further to get pictures of where the marks went down the tops of his thighs.

Dean hadn’t actually seen what his ass looked like before that. Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. But when Cas showed him the pictures, Dean had to clap a hand over his mouth and swallow hard to keep his lunch down. Yeah, it was pretty painful and he knew there must have been blisters that broke because he kept finding pinkish fluid on his underwear, but he hadn’t realized it was that bad. His ass was a rainbow of new and healing bruises, and some of the blisters looked like they might be getting infected.

In the end, Dean had promised to get it checked by a doctor, though Cas had agreed it could wait until tomorrow. For now, Dean put antibiotic ointment on it then started trying to figure out the combination to the safe. It wasn’t Crowley’s birthday, or Ben’s, or his. Not their anniversary either. Running out of ideas, Dean tried Crowley’s Kansas State Bar number. That worked. With a sigh of relief, he opened the safe and withdrew the papers he needed, then closed it back up, making sure to set the lock back to the number it had started on.

Once he’d made sure there was no evidence of his packing, Dean took his bag out to the garage and hid it in the Impala, then set about getting dinner ready. He needed Crowley in a good mood today because there was no way he could stand even one more night of being paddled. Hopefully, if he was in a good mood, and with Dean having been good for him for over a week, Crowley would let him have a break tonight.




“Strip. Bed. Now,” Crowley ordered when they went up to their room that night. Dinner had gone well and Crowley’s demand had a tone of pleased anticipation rather than his usual growl of domination.

“Babe, I was wondering, since I’ve been good for you every day, if maybe we could take a break tonight? At least from the paddle? We can still have sex if you want, but maybe something tender? Gentle?” Dean asked, eyes pleading.

“Why the hell would you want that? You know you love it rough. But you have more than earned a reward. In fact, I got you another present today,” Crowley replied.

“What? Why?” Dean’s eyes widened, watching as Crowley pulled a long paper bag from somewhere in the closet.

“As you said, you’ve been good. And I know those beautiful buttocks of yours could use a break from the constant bruising the paddle causes. I’m told this will give you more of a sharp sting; no bruises. I can’t wait to see how beautiful your ass will look criss-crossed with red welts.” Crowley pulled a black leather riding crop from the bag with a grin. He brought it down swiftly on Dean’s wrist, a taste of what was to come.

Or not.

With a yelp, Dean turned and ran for the ensuite, slamming and locking the door behind him.

“Dean? Sweetie, what’s wrong?” Crowley asked through the door, sounding genuinely perplexed.

“Crowley, I love you, but I need a real break. Actually, I need more than a break. This has to stop. I don’t like being hit. Not in anger, not in play, not even ‘just a little’, which that crop won’t be when in your hands. I’ve told you many times that I don’t like it, but you never listen.”

“Oh, I see. Playing hard to get? A little game of cat and mouse? You never told me you had a rape fantasy, but I guess it makes sense. We both know how much you love being dominated. I think I have some handcuffs somewhere, but I don’t want to waste time looking right now. I bet a tie would do, though. I have a burgundy one that would look great against your chafed wrists.”

Dean sighed. “Crowley, this is not a game. I’m serious. You have to stop this. Go to bed and I’ll sleep here and see you in the morning.”

“Are you giving me an order?” Crowley growled through the door, voice sounding dangerous.

“What? No! I mean, not about going to bed. That was just a suggestion.”

I decide when I go to bed. I decide when, where, and how you go to bed. And I decide when you need to learn a lesson. Now, your naked ass better be on that bed and presented for punishment when I get back or you will not like the consequences,” Crowley ordered before his footsteps could be heard pounding out of the bedroom.

Dean winced, worried the shouting and heavy steps might’ve woken Ben, but he was not backing down. This simply couldn’t continue. He should never have let the ‘pain play’ start in the first place.

Pushing away from the door he’d been leaning against, Dean pulled his phone from his back pocket, glad he hadn’t started undressing before the crop came out. Waking it up, he stared at the screen with its background picture of him, Crowley, and Ben--a selfie he took last summer at the courthouse family picnic. It seemed forever ago, and yet less than a year had passed since then. Staring at an old picture wasn’t what he needed the phone for, though. He’d promised Cas he would call 911 if he was in serious danger. But he wasn’t sure how bad the situation was going to get. Unless Crowley had gone to get something to break the door down, Dean was safe. Wasn’t he? Unsure, he decided to risk calling Cas, who picked up on the first ring.

”Dean? What’s going on, what’s wrong?” Cas’s worried voice said as soon as he picked up.

“I… I’m not sure. I told him I didn’t want him to use the paddle tonight and he pulled out a riding crop to use instead. I’ve locked myself in the bathroom for now, but he said to be out and on the bed by the time he gets back and I just… I’m scared. No way am I leaving this bathroom, but what if he went to get a spare key or an ax to break through the door?” Dean said, voice quivering.

“Stay there and brace something against the door if you can. Do not leave, and do not let him in. Call 911 right now and tell them you’re in immediate danger and need help. I’m on my way.”

“Wait! Cas, you don’t have to—” the line was already dead. With a sigh, Dean glanced around the bathroom, then pulled the plunger from under the sink. There was just enough gap between the door and the floor to wedge the handle in. it wasn’t the best option, but it was the best available.

Dialing 911, he held the phone to one ear as he placed the other against the door, listening for Crowley’s return.

”911, what’s your emergency?” an androgynous voice asked over the phone.

“My husband’s trying to hurt me again. I’ve locked myself in the bathroom but I’m afraid he’s going to find a way in,” Dean whispered hurriedly.

”Okay, can you tell me your location?

“Yeah, 1661 Needham Avenue.”

”Police are on the way. Do you require medical assistance?”

“Not unless he gets in before the cops get here.”

”And is there anyone else in the house right now? Are there any pets that might hinder police entry?

“No pets, and the only other person in the house is—”

“Father, that hurts!”

The sound of Ben’s voice stopped Dean’s heart in his chest. His fingers went numb, the phone falling to the rug in front of the sink with a dull, lifeless thud. A staticy voice came through the line, asking questions Dean didn’t hear. “Crowley, this is about us, not him. Send Ben back to bed.”

“Oh, but you’re wrong, Dean, sweetie. This is a very important lesson. One that you both need to learn. In this house, I am the ultimate authority and I expect respect and obedience. Here and now, Ben is going to learn what happens if either of you try to disobey. How he learns that lesson is up to you, Dean. Either you will march your ass out here and take your punishment like a man while he watches, or he will take the punishment for you. Which will it be?”

“Crowley, no! Please! I’ll come out, just send him back to bed first,” Dean begged, sobs choking his voice. He never in a million years thought Crowley would hurt their son.

“Giving orders again, Dean? Have you learned nothing?” There was the sound of a hand colliding with a pyjama-clad bottom and a sharp yelp from Ben.

“No! Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean it that way,” Dean cried as he kicked the plunger away and fumbled with the lock.

“You’re definitely sorry. I’m getting very tired of the sass and attitude from you, spouse. It’s well past time you learn your place and stay there.”

When Dean finally got the door open he saw Crowley had Ben held against the open bedroom door by the collar of his pyjama top. “I’m sorry, Crowley, please, I’m begging you, I’ll do whatever you want, just please, leave Ben out of this.”

Crowley turned his glare on Dean with a growl. “What did I just say about giving me orders?” he demanded. “Now, on the bed, ass bare and presented. I think fifty should be enough to teach you a lesson. Sass me again and I’ll double it. Understand?”

“Yes, Crowley,” Dean answered quietly around a shaky breath as he went to the bed. Avoiding Ben’s eyes, he knelt on the mattress and pulled his jeans and underwear down to pool around his knees.

“Ben, you’re going to stand here and watch quietly. No closing your eyes or looking away. I want you to see first hand what happens if you try to disobey me.”

Though he was shaking with fear, Ben started to give Crowley a defiant glare, but Dean caught his eye and minutely shook his head. Swallowing hard, Ben managed to croak out a quiet, “Yes, sir.”

“And Dean, you will count every hit, loud and clear, got it?”

Dean nodded. He hadn’t been instructed to keep his eyes open, though, so he didn’t. After fearfully waiting for the first strike, he couldn’t help crying out as the paddle connected solidly with his ass--apparently any brownie points he’d earned to switch to the less impactful crop were long gone. “One,” he whimpered, barely remembering he was supposed to count.

“I didn’t hear anything, did you?” Crowley asked Ben, though he didn’t wait for an answer. “Let’s try that again.”

The paddle landed again and Dean bit his lip in an attempt to hold back his cry of pain. “Two,” he said, loudly.

Crowley tutted him. “I knew you were stupid but I didn’t think you were this brainless. When you count, the first number is one. Now, let’s try this again and hope you can get it right this time. If you need it spelled out for that moronic brain of yours, we’re starting over. With one. And you will say it loud and clear or we will start over again. Understand?”

“Yes, Crowley. Sorry.”

“Damn right you are,” Crowley grumbled, even as he brought the paddle down again.

“One!” Dean cried out, then, “Two, three, four!” as the next three thwacks came in rapid succession. By the time they made it to twenty-three, Dean’s ass was red and full of new blisters, half of which had burst under impact. He was in so much pain that staying conscious was a struggle. His brain wanted to run away, either retreat from his body or pass out altogether, but if he wasn’t satisfying Crowley’s needs, Dean worried his husband would go after their son instead. So he forced himself to endure, still saying every number loud and clear though the pain was unbearable.

After two more counted hits, Crowley grabbed Dean’s much-abused ass cheeks roughly, pulling them back to grind against his silk pyjama-clad cock, which was hard and throbbing. “Doing surprisingly well, Dean. You even managed to count past fingers and toes. We’re halfway there.” He rutted against the cleft of Dean’s ass with a groan of need. “Since you’ve done so well, aside from the screw-ups at the beginning, I’ll give you a choice. You let me pound you into the mattress right here and now and we’re done. Or you get the rest of your spankings. Which will it be?” Crowley growled as he reached around to stroke Dean’s mostly soft cock.

“Can Ben go back to bed first?” Dean asked, though he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

“No.”

“Spankings then,” Dean said with a sigh.

“See? I knew you loved pain. You even went limp when I stopped spanking you. Such a kinky boy, Dean. Alright. I went easy on you to start. Now the pain really begins.”

Crowley picked his paddle up again and Dean nearly jumped out of his skin when it connected. It didn’t seem possible, but Crowley really had been holding back for the first half. That, or the damage caused by the first half made the second hurt more. After three more hits, Dean’s head was pounding, his vision darkening around the edges, his body threatening to shut down, pass out, whether he wanted it to or not. But he couldn’t. He had to stay conscious, keep Ben safe. Had to endure, had to count, had to bear the pain though his muscles were trembling, his body nearing collapse. The pounding in his head grew louder and Dean heard himself say, “Twenty-nine” before everything went dark.

Chapter Text

A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

Dean opened his eyes slowly, blinking against the light and whimpering as his burning ass informed him he couldn’t have been out long. The room seemed overly full and much too bright. They’d been using just the bedside lamps, but the overhead light was on now, flooding the room in stark, white luminescence that made Dean feel exposed and vulnerable. Unfamiliar voices filling the room compounded the feeling as he struggled to focus on the actual words being said.

“—madman burst in on a perfectly consensual scene and accosted me in my own home!”

That was Crowley’s voice. His someone—probably-Dean—is-about-to-get-hurt voice. Dean cringed, face buried in his arms as he bit back a whimper of fear.

“It was not! He said he’d hurt me if Dean didn’t let him do that stuff. Dean didn’t want it, he was just trying to keep me safe.”

And that was Ben. Oh, God. Crowley had made Ben watch.

“Lying little brat. Have you forgotten who puts the food in your belly? The clothes on your back? The roof over your head?” Crowley spat, voice growing louder and harsher with each question. “Besides, regardless of what my husband and I were doing, this man broke into my house and assaulted me and I want him arrested this instant!”

“Mister MacLeod, please calm down. You know we have to take everyone’s statement first,” an unfamiliar voice said.

“This is my house, he broke the door in and attacked me. That’s clearly breaking and entering topped off with assault, so what are you waiting for, Fitzgerald? Arrest his ass!”

“Dean called me for help,” Cas’s low rumble protested. “And I did not break the door in. I used the spare key that Dean told me about when we made contingency plans for emergencies.

“Dean, is it? Since when do you call parishioners by their first names and know where they keep their house key? I knew it! You’ve been screwing my husband, haven’t you?” Crowley yelled.

“I have not,” Cas replied calmly. “I have, however, been helping him document instances of your abuse. You won’t be laying a hand on him again.”

“Oh, won’t I? Care to wager on that? He’s my husband, and whatever nonsense you’ve been filling his head with, he loves me. Dean is mine, and nothing you can say or do will change that,” Crowley growled, his British accent lending a sneer to his tone.

“I’ll take that bet,” Dean rasped, turning his head to glare at Crowley as more sirens approached outside. He’d planned on playing unconscious until everything was sorted but there was no way Dean could let that smug claim stand. Although his throat was raw from the screams he hadn’t been able to hold back, as much as he’d tried to hide his pain in front of Ben, Dean still spoke up. “Never again, Crowley. I gave you so many chances, told you so many times that I don’t like being hit, but you never listened. And now you drew Ben into it? That’s it. The last straw. I love you, but I won’t let you hurt Ben, physically or mentally. We’re leaving.”

As Ben pulled away from the comforting hand Officer Fitzgerald had on his shoulder to rush to Dean’s side, Crowley lunged toward the bed. The officer who’d been holding Crowley since pulling him and Cas away from each other tightened his grip, keeping the angry man in place. “How dare you speak to me like that in my own house?” Crowley thundered, voice literally vibrating through the room and causing things on the nightstands and dresser to shake.

“Dispatch, if that’s the medics outside, send them up. Situation is under control, but we got a guy needin’ medical help,” Officer Fitzgerald said into his radio before turning to Crowley. “Not to split hairs or anything, Mister MacLeod, but didn’t you say Dean here is your husband? Don’t that mean the house is his just as much as it’s yours?” he asked.

“Are you a moron? Just because he lives here doesn’t mean it’s his. I bought this house over a decade before we got married. That means it’s mine.”

“Hey, didn’t you say you put it in my name like, three years ago or something?” Dean managed to ask, looking away to rest his forehead on his crossed arms again. His ass was throbbing with pain and as humiliating as it was, he was in no condition to move. Ben was rubbing his shoulder comfortingly and looking anywhere but Dean’s naked lower half.

“That was just for tax purposes. You know damn well this house is mine!” Crowley growled.

“If it’s in his name, though—”

“Shut up, Fitzgerald! Nobody asked you. And you, Chatty Cathy,” Crowley added, looking back and up at the officer holding him who had yet to say a word, “can get your damn hands off me already. Do you even know who I am?”

“Sorry, sir, but that’s not going to happen. Garth mentioned as we pulled up that you’re the district attorney, but the rules say I’ve got to keep you controlled as long as you pose a threat to yourself or others. Now if you’d rather, I can put the cuffs on you, I jus’ thought you’d prefer to avoid that type of unpleasantness,” the officer replied in a heavy cajun accent.

“Then why isn’t he restrained?” Crowley demanded, nodding toward Cas. “He’s the violent intruder.”

Officer Fitzgerald glanced from Crowley to Cas and back. “Really? Seems to be behaving himself just fine. Besides, I’m pretty sure he’s no threat to anyone here but you. And rest assured, if he so much as twitches in your direction I’ll have him controlled before you can blink. I know I don’t look like much, but I’m fast as lightning.”

“Don’t worry. As long as you keep him away from Dean, I won’t touch him,” Cas assured.

“Yep, I figured that.” Officer Fitzgerald nodded to Cas, then leaned his lanky frame to look around him. “In here. On the bed,” he called to the paramedics, who were ascending the last few stairs.

As the paramedics entered and went to Dean, the pretty young honey-blonde woman whistled. Her partner, a handsome man who looked about the same age with darker skin and rich brown eyes shook his head in sympathy.

“That looks awful. Did you forget your safeword?” the blonde asked.

“Oh my God, Jo, show some sensitivity, would you?”

“Like you weren’t wondering the same thing, Max.” Despite their banter, the medics were professionals and quickly opened their bags to set about tending to Dean’s much abused ass. As careful and gentle as they were, Dean still yelped and jumped involuntarily when they were cleaning just above the cleft of his ass.

“Extra tender there?” Max asked.

“You could say that, though I think I’d go with ‘hurts like a motherfucker’,” Dean replied.

The paramedics exchanged a glance. “Broken coxis?” Jo suggested, and Max nodded.

“He’ll need x-rays to confirm, but it looks like it. And some of these blisters look infected. Are these all from tonight?” Max asked.

“Nah, the earliest ones are from Saturday before last, so ten or eleven days old,” Dean replied.

“Have you seen a doctor yet?” Jo inquired.

“Was gonna go tomorrow.”

“Well, it looks like that’s going to get moved up to tonight. Of course, that’s if you’re okay with going to the hospital, which I highly recommend. You need x-rays and tests to check for internal bleeding. These bandages will also need to be changed and redressed every four hours until the infection is gone and the blisters are healed so they’ll probably admit you, and you’ll need to be put on antibiotics.”

Max nodded at his partner’s suggestion. “Not to mention, you are not going to want to be sitting for a while. You can have someone else drive you to the hospital, but you’d have to lay on your stomach across the back seat. If your insurance covers the ride, I’d recommend having us take you. It’ll be a lot more comfortable.”

“What about Ben?” Dean asked.

“My son is not going anywhere,” Crowley growled.

“He’s my son too, and no way am I leaving him here with you,” Dean countered.

Officer Fitzgerald stepped in. “Ben, I’ll need an official statement from you before you go anywhere, but after that, would you like to stay here or join Dean at the hospital?”

“Dean! I want to go with Dean.”

Ben’s answer was immediate and firm, giving Dean a measure of peace. Part of him had worried Ben might rather stay with Crowley, had thought maybe Ben would blame him for everything, just like Crowley always did. After all, it had been Dean’s fault Ben had to see what he’d witnessed. If Dean had just let Crowley do what he wanted in the first place—no. That was not the right way to think. Dean knew that. The only one responsible for Crowley’s actions was Crowley himself, and Dean had no control over them or him.

“That’s just fine, Ben. How about you go get dressed and pack a couple outfits and a game, maybe your homework if you have any? I’ll drive you to the hospital and we can chat on the way. That sound okay?”

“Yes, sir, officer.”

“Hey, no need to be so formal. We’re friends now, right? Just call me Garth, okay?”

Ben nodded, then headed off for his room.

Looking back at his partner, Garth raised one side of his lips in a goofy smile. “I just realized, you’re both named Ben. Almost like fate that we were the ones to answer the call. Anyways, Benny, how about you take Mr. MacLeod down to the kitchen and get his formal statement? I’ll interview Cas here, then take young Ben to the hospital. He’ll need someone there besides Dean to keep an eye on him, though. You got any family that can meet you there, Dean?”

“Yeah. Sammy’d probably be pissed if I didn’t call him anyways.”

Crowley shot Dean a scowl. “Speaking of, don’t think you can hide behind that moose brother of yours. I’ll have that damn ambulance chaser’s license pulled before you can say—”

“Now, I know my ears ain’t hearin’ what I think they’re hearin’. ‘Cause there’s no way the district attorney would threaten to abuse his position and get his husband’s brother disbarred, right? Especially not with two upstanding police officers as witnesses?” Officer Lafite interrupted. Before Crowley could say anything else, Benny marched him out of the room and down the steps.

“Is it alright if we get our patient out of here? Dean’s stable, but I’m sure he’ll feel a lot better once we get him to the hospital and on the good drugs,” Max said.

“Sure, guys, just one quick comment before you go. Dean, we gotta file an incident report no matter what, so I’ll get that taken care of tonight. As for assault charges against Crowley, you think about it overnight and you can decide tomorrow if you wanna file those. I’m gonna put in a request for a temporary restraining order with Judge Mills tonight if that’s alright with you. I don’t know either of you very well outside of church, and I’m not sure what all’s been going on between you, but I think you need a bit of time apart to think about what you’re gonna do. All that okay with you? If you’d rather file charges now, or don’t want the restraining order, that’s fine; it’s up to you. But, unfortunately, I’ve seen cases like this, and I think that’s what would be best for you for now.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. I definitely want the restraining order for now, if we can do that. I’ll call Pastor Novak in the morning and discuss where to go from here.” Dean replied, weariness evident in his voice.

“So you’ve talked with Pastor Novak about this?” Officer Fitzgerald asked.

“Yeah, that’s why I called him tonight.”

Garth looked at Dean, then at Cas, brows scrunched. “Does he—”

Cas interrupted. “I’ll talk to him about it at the hospital. You won’t have to call me in the morning, Dean. I’ll stay with you tonight and help keep an eye on Ben. And I can call your brother for you, if you want. Where’s your phone?”

“Oh, I dropped it in the bathroom when I was talking to the 911 operator.”

Cas went to the bathroom and picked up the phone as Jo and Max carefully helped Dean stand.

“Do you have a robe or something we can wrap loosely around you?” Jo asked, and Dean pointed to the walk-in closet.

“On a hook on the inside of the door. The pink plaid robe’s mine.”

“Oh, this is so soft. It must be really comfortable,” Jo commented as she grabbed the robe and helped Dean into it.

“It is,” Dean confirmed, then looked over at the bathroom as he realized Cas had been talking into the phone.

“Thank you,” Cas said as he disconnected the call then turned back toward the bedroom.

“Was that Sam?” Dean asked.

“No, it was the 911 operator. The line stayed open the whole time. They have audio of everything that happened and will send a copy to the police station. I’ll call Sam now, then pack a bag for you while I talk with Officer Fitzgerald. As soon as I’m done here, I will head to the hospital. Is there anything specific you would like me to bring?”

“My car, but you drove here, right? It’s not like you can drive two cars at the same time. But the important stuff’s already in the car. Other than that, just my sweatpants, underwear and white t-shirts from the bottom drawer of the dresser, and jeans, tees, and flannels from the left side of the closet. And my phone, of course. Also, if you don’t mind, can you look through Ben’s room and make sure he didn’t leave behind anything important? Schoolbooks, photos, his PS4 and games, stuff like that? I don’t want to have to come back here ever again.”

Cas nodded. “Of course, Dean. And I’ll get your car too. I’ll pack everything in it, drive it to the hospital, then catch a cab back to get my car.”

“Or, if you’re okay with me drivin’ her, I can take Ben to the hospital in your car so Cas can drive his, and Benny can take the squad car,” Officer Fitzgerald offered. “I’ll help get you packed up too. With me and Benny here, it should go smoother.”

Dean gave the officer a tremulous smile. “Thanks, Garth. That sounds like a good plan. Will she be okay in the hospital parking lot, though? What if Crowley tries to—”

“Hey, no worries, Dean. I’ll get permission to park her in the doctor’s parking area. They watch that lot like hawks, and I’ll tell security to pay extra close attention to her. You get on to the hospital and get yourself checked out. We’ve got things handled here.”

Blinking back tears that were totally from the pain he was in and definitely not from the chick flick moment, Dean nodded.“Really, man, thank you so much. You too, Cas, I really appreciate the help.”

“Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s get you to the hospital,” Jo said, steering Dean toward the stairs and saving him from being all weepy in front of Cas and Garth. Max was on his other side, keeping him steady. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, Dean was starting to tremble. As they approached the stairs, Ben came out from his room on the other end of the hall.

“Dean, are you gonna be okay?”

“Yeah, Ben. I’m fine, just need a few tests then a bit of rest and I’ll be back to one hundred percent. Listen, though. We’re not gonna be coming back here, so make sure you pack up anything you wanna keep. You need to listen to Garth and Cas and stay away from Crowley, okay? Once you have everything, they’ll help take it to the car, then Garth’s gonna drive you to the hospital and bring you to me. I’m real sorry about what you saw tonight, but that’s never gonna happen again, promise.”

“Okay. Make sure you do everything the doctors tell you. I don’t want to lose you like I did mom,” Ben said, hugging Dean around the waist, careful to keep his arms high enough not to touch where he was hurt.

Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Dean returned the hug, running a hand soothingly over his back. “That’s never gonna happen, kid. You’re stuck with me.”

“Yeah, he’s going to be fine, Ben, but we need to get going now,” Max said, breaking up the family moment.

Ben released Dean and stepped back, watching him make his way slowly and gingerly down the stairs. When he got to the bottom, Dean turned and looked up at his son. Ben waved, giving an encouraging smile before dashing back to his room to start packing in earnest.

As they made their way to the front door, Dean kept his eyes on the carpet. He could hear Crowley’s voice off to his right, talking to the officer with the Cajun accent, and Dean had no desire to see him, or his house for that matter. Happy memories that the rooms used to hold had been overwritten by fear and pain. Dean couldn’t think of a single room in the house that hadn’t seen one or the other. Or both. He wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to the house, or to Crowley. His only real regret was that he hadn’t left sooner, before Ben had to... just, before tonight. But better late than never.

The paramedics helped him onto the gurney, face down, of course, then strapped him in and loaded him into the ambulance. A minute later they were driving away, leaving one life behind and carrying Dean towards a new future.

Chapter Text

A_Shoulder_To_Cry_On

Dean opened his eyes to darkness, feeling like he couldn’t breathe, then realized he was sleeping on his stomach and his face was in his pillow. Lifting his head, he pushed himself onto his arms then stopped with a groan and slumped back down, head turned to the side. Ben was asleep in a recliner which had been pulled close against the side of Dean’s hospital bed.

“How are you feeling?” a gravelly voice asked quietly from Dean’s other side. He turned his head to see Cas sitting in a folding chair beside the bed.

“Not bad, as long as I don’t move,” Dean replied, keeping his hoarse voice low to avoid waking Ben. The light that filtered through the closed blinds painted thin, greenish white stripes across the floor and bed in the dark room. That shade of illumination could only be caused by the lights in the parking lot beyond the window. Dean guessed it must be early morning. “When did you get here?”

“A few hours ago. Sam is here too, he’s just gone to get coffee and something to eat.”

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Dean asked, trying to find a more comfortable position and failing. He really wasn’t a fan of laying on his stomach.

“After they took x-rays, the doctors put you on intravenous antibiotics and administered something to help you sleep. They don’t want you moving around. You have a broken coxis.”

Dean chuckled. “I’m sorry, I have a broken what, now?”

Cas rolled his eyes. “Tailbone. Coxis is the medical name for tailbone.”

“Huh. How do they fix that?” Dean asked curiously.

“They don’t. You just have to restrict activity until the bone mends on its own,” Cas replied with a small shrug.

Dean groaned. “I guess I’m going to be sleeping on my stomach for the foreseeable future.” He didn’t relish the idea. “You should go home and get some sleep. Sam’s here to look after Ben, right? No need for both of you to be up all night, especially since I’ll probably sleep a lot.”

Shaking his head, Cas rested a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “I want to be here. And I am glad that you called me tonight, though I wish it hadn’t been necessary. I know how much you were hoping he would be reasonable.”

With a shudder at the thought of Crowley, Dean slid a hand up to cover Cas’s. “I think last night had to happen for me to realize that he’s not going to change. Anyone willing to use a child to force someone to do whatever they want them to isn’t someone I want in my life. But I thought I’d have more time to plan. I’m not sure where I’m going to go now, or what I’m going to do.”

“Well, the doctors want you to stay here for at least two days. They’re worried about tissue damage from the infected blisters. Once you’ve been on antibiotics for two days, they can see how you’re responding to the treatment. If you’re healing well, they’ll discharge you. That means you have at least two days to plan. And you have plenty of options.”

“One of those being to move in with me and Jess,” Sam said as he came into the room, holding out a styrofoam cup to Cas. “I’d love for you and Ben to live with us.”

Cas stood so Sam could have the chair by the bed. He took a seat at the small table in the corner of the private room, not noticing Dean’s shoulders droop at the loss of contact. “You are also welcome to stay with me if you want. But we can discuss this more in the morning. You’re yawning. You should sleep more, Dean.”

Chuckling, Dean let his eyes drift closed. “I like going to church every week, but I’m not so sure I want to live in one.”

“That is something else we should discuss in the morning. One question before you go back to sleep, though. Sam and I both think Ben should be excused from school tomorrow. What do you think?”

“Yeah, I agree. He’s had a hard night, and I want him to see a counselor before going back to school. I’m also not sure I want him outta my sight right now.” Dean sighed and turned his head to watch Ben. He seemed to be sleeping deeply and peacefully, but Dean knew that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“Okay, back to sleep, Dean, before I call the nurse in to dope you up again,” Sam teased, trying to lighten the mood. He clapped a hand on Dean’s shoulder.

“Like anyone could sleep with your giant moose ass looming over them,” Dean grumbled without looking at his brother. He wanted to keep watching Ben.

“Yeah, right. You just prefer Cas at your bedside. Too bad for you, I’m gonna keep him busy playing cards all night.”

“You’re delusional, Sam. Maybe you need to have a doctor check you out while you’re here.”

“Sure, go ahead, deny it all you want. You can’t fool me, jerk.”

“Oh, shut up and go play your cards, bitch,” Dean replied with a yawn. He heard a chair at the table scrape against the linoleum floor, then the sound of shuffling cards as his eyes slipped closed. The quiet voices of his brother and friend talking while they played guided Dean off to a dreamless sleep.




Dean woke to sunlight spilling over the empty recliner next to him. Pushing down panic, he turned his head to take in the rest of the quiet hospital room. Cas was stood by the window, folded over and hugging his legs. Eyes widening at the impossible position, he cleared his suddenly dry throat as he wondered how the pastor could be so flexible.

Straightening up slowly, Cas turned, giving a soft smile to Dean. “How are you feeling?”

“Sore all over. Emotionally numb. Where’s Ben?”

“Don’t worry. Sam took him to the cafeteria for breakfast. After that, Ben has an appointment with the hospital’s child psychologist so they won’t be back for a while. Garth stopped by earlier but he didn’t want to wake you. He said to let you know he would stop in this afternoon before his next shift.”

“That’s good. It’ll give me time to think about what I’m going to do. So, how does a priest manage to get so flexible?” Dean asked.

“Well, that’s something I wanted to talk with you about,” Cas replied, moving to the folding chair by Dean’s bed and sitting down. “I have been… I never outright lied to you, but I may have been lying by omission. When you first spoke to me at the grocery store, I didn’t correct your misconception because I like teasing my brother’s parishioners, but when you turned out to have a serious problem, I wanted to help and was worried that you wouldn’t trust me if I told you the truth.”

“What truth?” Dean asked, pushing up onto his elbows with a wince.

“I told you I have a brother, Jimmy, right?”

“Yeah, and other siblings too.”

“Jimmy is my twin. He’s Pastor Novak. I’m just Castiel Novak, not a pastor. I own a martial arts studio downtown,” Cas said, cheeks flushed and gaze downturned.

Dean blinked. He opened his mouth, closed it, and blinked again.

“Say something? Please? I know it was a terrible abuse of your trust and I wanted to tell you so many times, but I was afraid. I didn’t want you to hate me or push me away. You needed a friend you could trust and I… I know not telling you the truth was wrong, but I knew if I told you—”

“I knew,” Dean interrupted quietly, sinking back down to rest his cheek on his folded arms.

“You knew?”

“Not exactly knew knew, but part of me always felt like you and the pastor were two different people. I should probably be mad, but I’m not. Not really. Pastor Novak’s advice seemed to backfire every time, but you really listened to my problems and helped me. I’m not sure what all is going to happen now, but I know the pictures you took and the journal you had me write will help with the legal stuff.”

“They certainly will. And the 911 call from last night, too. That’s enough to put him away for years.” Cas replied.

If I press charges,” Dean amended.

“You don’t want to press charges?”

“I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t think he’s a danger to anyone else and as long as he lets me go and doesn’t stalk me or try to hurt me again…”

“Do you think he will let you go, though?” Cas asked, placing a gentle hand on Dean’s shoulder.

“Well, that’s the big question. But his job is very important to him and if I bring criminal charges against him, he’ll lose that job. He’s actually a very good district attorney. I think the city’s a safer place with him in the position.”

“If you don’t file charges, how will you keep him from getting custody of Ben? Or visitation rights?”

“I have to talk to Sam about that, and probably a divorce attorney too. Maybe I can use the threat of filing charges to work out some kind of agreement.”

Cas nodded. “If he’s as attached to his job as you think, that could work. And you can sell the house to get some money to support yourself and Ben until you’re healed enough to start working. Plus child support and alimony.”

“I don’t know about selling the house. Yeah, he put it in my name so I can technically do whatever I want with it, but it’s been in his family for a long time. I wouldn’t feel right not giving it back to him,” Dean said, blushing as his stomach growled.

“You could always sell it back to him or negotiate a higher alimony payment. Or keep it and rent it to him. But that discussion can wait until Sam gets back. Would you like me to order some breakfast for you?”

“Yeah, thanks. Anything with bacon.”




“Knock knock, everyone awake?” Garth asked, peeking his head through the open doorway.

“Yeah, Garth, come on in.” Dean adjusted the blanket on his lap, making sure the donut pillow he had to sit on was fully covered. Embarrassing as it was, he’d have used it even if he didn’t have a blanket to cover it, since it meant he could relax without laying on his stomach.

“I’m surprised to see you sitting,” Garth commented as he moved into the room.

“My ass is bruised and sore, but as long as I don’t move a muscle, it’s not too bad. And I’ve been laying on my stomach for ages. Needed to change it up,” Dean replied with a shrug and a slight wince as the motion shifted his weight, changing the pressure on his bruised ass and fractured tailbone.

“All night sure can seem like ages when you aren’t used to sleeping that way.” Garth nodded.

“It, uh… It wasn’t just last night. I’ve spent the past week and a half laying on my stomach instead of sitting down, though I had to sleep on my side at night because he always insisted on spooning afterward. Actually, I was just starting to get used to the bruises enough to sit for a little while the past couple of days, then last night happened.”

“That is definitely not cool. Crowley, not you. Have you thought about pressing charges?” Garth asked.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinkin’ about it all day. Is there a deadline on when I can file charges?”

Rubbing his chin, Garth looked at Dean thoughtfully. “Well, technically, the incident report has already been filed, plus the witness statements and a copy of the 911 call. If you wanna send his butt to jail, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did, it’s just a matter of having a prosecutor pick up the case. Crowley being the DA complicates things a bit, but I have a judge friend of mine coming to talk to you about it. As long as you’re willing to testify, we’ll make sure he’s arrested and prosecuted, even if we have to pull in an ADA or DA from another district. The problem with these kinds of cases, like I mentioned last night, is that people will say they want to press charges, then change their minds when the fear wears off and they go back to the abuser, or when it comes to testifying. Which sucks, but it is what it is. The heart’s a mysterious thing.”

“Well, I’m not going back to him, ever. Not after what he did to Ben. But I was thinking that, instead of filing charges, we could work something out that won’t get him fired but will keep Ben and I safe and taken care of, at least until I’m healed enough to take care of us myself.”

There was a firm knock on the open door, along with a, “Good to hear.” Not waiting for an invitation, the woman walked over to Garth’s side. She had short brown hair, a warm smile, and eyes that said she’d seen far more shit than anyone should have to. “You definitely deserve better than that ass, and I don’t even know you yet.”

“Dean, this is Judge Jody Mills. Jody, Dean Winchester,” Garth said with a grin, introducing them.

“Good to meet you Dean,” Jody said, grasping his hand firmly, though only giving a small shake. “I wish it was under better circumstances, though. So, since I was the one who granted the temporary restraining order, Crowley’s lawyer came to me with a request for informal negotiations. Sounds like you’re kinda wanting the same thing?”

“Yeah, as long as it’s legal. I mean, whatever we decide, he has to stick to it. Did you two wanna sit down?” Dean offered, gesturing to the empty chairs. Sam and Ben weren’t back yet and Cas had gone to get coffee for himself and Dean.

Jody pulled a chair around to face the recliner. Garth did the same and they both sat. “What conditions were you thinking about? Crowley’s only requests so far are a non-disclosure agreement and he wants the house back in his name,” Jody said.

Dean thought for a moment. “I want full custody of Ben, no contact between him and Crowley, and a permanent restraining order.”

“Don’t forget child support, alimony, and no face to face meetings for the negotiations,” Cas added as he entered with two cups of coffee. He handed Dean’s to him then sat in the folding chair which was still beside the bed.

“I only need the financial support until I’m healed up and can get a job. I don’t really like the idea of relying on his money,” Dean said with a frown before taking a sip of his coffee.

“You know he’s just wanting negotiations so he stays out of jail and doesn’t lose his job, right?” Garth asked.

“Yeah, I know. But I don’t really want him to get fired or go to jail either, so if it means I have leverage to get him outta our lives for good, I’m okay with that.”

Garth nodded. “That makes sense, and as long as Jody signs off on it, it should be fine.”

“You should probably have a lawyer to represent you during the negotiations. The lawyers can meet with me and conference you and Crowley in so neither of you have to be in the room. We can even have the lawyers use earbuds so you don’t have to hear his voice either. Would that be acceptable?” Jody asked.

“If I can do it from here, yeah. That’d be great.”

“Dean! You’re up!” Ben’s voice called as he dashed into the room and made a B-line for Dean’s chair.

“Easy Ben, he’s still hurt!” Sam cautioned, coming in behind him.

“I know, I wasn’t gonna tackle him or anything,” Ben grumbled, shoes squeaking to a halt on the floor as he stopped beside the recliner. He carefully reached an arm over Dean’s chest and rested his head on Dean’s shoulder in an awkward half-hug. “I’m really glad you’re okay.”

“Me too, Ben. Me too. Hey, you know nothing that happened last night was your fault, right? Crowley was gonna do what he wanted, no matter what.”

“But if I hadn’t been there, you could have stayed in the bathroom and he wouldn’t have—”

“No, Ben. He still would have done whatever he wanted. You know he always gets his way. If you hadn’t been there, he just would’ve picked the lock and forced his way in, or broken the door down, or threatened my car, or started a fire. Believe me, he would’ve found a way. The only one responsible for Crowley’s actions is him. Okay? I know it’s hard to learn not to blame yourself, but it’s true. None of anything that’s happened is your fault.”

Ben frowned. “That’s what the shrink said.”

“You don’t believe the psychiatrist? Or me?” Dean asked.

“I do, but… I kinda don’t. You and father were happy before you adopted me, right?”

“And we were happy after we adopted you. Crowley’s… temper and control issues started a long time ago. But even if they hadn’t, his actions wouldn’t be your fault. Because he is the one who chose what actions to take. He could have talked to us about anything bothering him, or seen a psychiatrist, or set up a punching bag in the basement to work out his aggression on. There are lots of things he could’ve done that didn’t involve abusing his family. Do you understand?”

“I think I might, kinda,” Ben said, pulling away to stare down at his shoes.

“Hey, look at me, Ben.” Dean hooked a finger under his son’s chin, lifting it until their eyes met. “It’s okay if you don’t get it right now. You can think about it on your own. Maybe one day it’ll make sense to you. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling how you feel. Just remember that you’re my son and I love you, no matter what. And I don’t hold you responsible for anyone’s behavior but your own, alright?”

Nodding, Ben wiped a flannel sleeve across his eyes, then glanced around as though just realizing they weren’t alone.

“I think a day like today calls for ice cream. There’s a Dairy Queen a few blocks away. How about we go get some?” Sam suggested.

“Can I get a chocolate Butterfinger Blizzard?”

“Actually, Sam, I was hoping you could stay here for a while. This is Officer Garth Fitzgerald and Judge Jody Mills. We were discussing legal stuff. Ice cream sounds great, though. Maybe you two can go after we’re done here?” Dean asked.

Cas spoke up. “If you don’t mind, I can take Ben to get ice cream.”

Dean smiled hesitantly at Cas. “Thanks for offering, but what if something happens? Like, what if Crowley shows up and… I don’t know, does something?”

“Did I forget to mention that I’m the lead instructor at the martial arts studio I own? I know a lot more than the yoga you saw me doing this morning. He will be safe with me, you have my word.”

Though still hesitant, seeing Ben’s hopeful face and the way he bounced on his feet swayed Dean. “Okay. Thanks Cas, I appreciate it. Sam, do you mind giving him the money for it? I’d rather not use Crowley’s card. He might have a trace on it, or, hell, he coulda already cancelled it.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dean. I can afford a few ice creams,” Cas asserted with a smile. “We’ll eat ours there to give you time. Would anyone like us to bring something back?”

“Only if they have pie,” Dean replied with a chuckle.

Grinning, Cas took Ben’s hand and they left the room. Once they were gone, Sam joined the legal discussion. He took notes as they talked, promising Dean he’d type up a preliminary agreement at home after dinner.




“Did everyone already leave?” Cas asked as he and Ben came in.

“Yeah. Garth had to get to work, Jody had to pick up her daughter from cheerleading practice, and Sam went home for dinner. Cas, you should go home too—get some real food and some sleep. Ben and I will be fine.”

“I would rather stay, if that’s alright with you. My classes are covered for the rest of the week so I would be bored at home with nothing to do.”

Dean laughed. “It’s not like there’s anything to do here either.”

“Yes, but at least here we can be bored in good company,” Cas replied with a grin.

“Hey, Dean, we brought you something,” Ben said, interrupting the camaraderie. He held out a paper bag to his dad, who was still sitting in the recliner.

“No way! Did they actually have pie?” Dean exclaimed, opening the bag eagerly.

“Not exactly,” Cas said as Dean pulled out a cup and spoon.

“What’s this?”

“They wouldn’t sell me the pie separately, but they had a cherry pie blizzard so… ice cream and pie, all in one? That’s even better than just pie, right?” Cas gave Dean a wide grin.

“Nothing is better than pie. But this sounds interesting. Worth trying, at least.” Taking a bite, Dean pronounced it passable. Cas and Ben pulled the table over to the recliner so they could all play cards. Two games of go fish and one game of gin rummy later they ordered dinner, then set about teaching Cas how to play crazy eights while they waited over an hour for their food.

“Finally,” Dean said as their trays of food were brought in. “I’m fu— freakin’ starving.”

Ben chuckled. “I know what you were going to say, Dean. You can swear; I don’t mind. Mom cussed like a sailor.”

“That doesn’t make it okay. You should only swear when it’s appropriate, and it’s not appropriate to swear when kids are around. And yes, you’re still a kid, even if you know all the swear words and no matter how mature you are. So I’ll always try to watch my language around you, at least ‘til you’re eighteen.”

Nodding, Ben went back to his food and Dean asked Cas about his work between bites; just idle dinner conversation until Ben interrupted from out of the blue.

“Dean, where are we gonna live? Will I be able to go back to school? What if Crowley tries to take me away from you? He can do that, right?”

“Woah, hey, one thing at a time, Ben. Have you been holding back those questions all day?” Dean asked and Ben nodded. “Don’t bottle things up, okay? If you have a question or you’re worried about something, talk to me. Now, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure Crowley doesn’t take you. In fact, he’s not even gonna be allowed to see you. Not unless you want to see him. As for going back to school, of course you’ll be going back. In fact, you can go tomorrow if you want. Uncle Sam can drive you there, and he’ll make sure the school knows that Crowley isn’t allowed to see you right now. But if you want a few more days before you go back, that’s okay too. You can stay here with me for the rest of the week, then go back on Monday. Whichever you want’s fine, okay?”

“What about where we’re going to live? We aren’t gonna live in the hospital from now on, are we?”

Sighing, Dean shook his head. “No, the hospital’s just for a few days. After that, I’m not sure. We’ll probably stay with Uncle Sam and Aunt Jess for a while. At least until I’m all the way better. Once I can get a job, we’ll start looking for somewhere to rent, just the two of us.”

“Do we have to stay with Uncle Sam?” Ben asked, pushing his food around on his plate with his fork.

“I thought you liked Sammy?”

“I do like Uncle Sam, but he and Aunt Jess cook gross food, and they live really far away from my school. It’ll take forever to get there every day.”

“Oh, come on, the food’s not that bad.”

“Then why were you feeding yours to Bones under the table last time they had us over for dinner?”

“Touché. Maybe I’ll just take over doing the cooking. They both work hard all day anyways, so they’d probably like the help.”

“It’s still really far from my school,” Ben reiterated.

“Yeah, but it’s only a little bit outside the school district. I’ll get permission from the school for the temporary distance and just drive you every day.”

“Dean, no offense, but you can’t drop me off at school in that rusty old death trap. Besides, will it even survive driving every day? You usually never drive it more than once a week.”

Pointing his fork at Ben, Dean gave him a mock scowl. “Hey now, don’t dis my baby. She just needs some love and attention and she’ll be good as new.”

“Sure it will. But if you can’t afford to get us a place to live, how can you afford to get your car all fixed up?” Ben asked pointedly.

“I’ll manage,” Dean grumbled, stabbing a piece of salisbury steak and popping it into his mouth.

Looking hesitantly between Dean and Ben, Cas chose that moment to speak up. “The offer to stay at my place is still open, Dean. It’s down on Main, so it should be in the same school district, it’s above my martial arts studio so between me, the other instructors, and the advanced students, you’ll be safe, and I’m not picky about food as long as there’s at least a few veggies in every dinner.”

“You’ve already done so much for me, I don’t want to cause you more trouble.”

“It’s no trouble. In fact, it would put my mind at ease to know you’re safe. And if you wanted to do the cooking, that would be a big help. Most days I work late so I just have reheated leftovers for dinner. Having something warm to come home to, and different every night, would be great. There’s plenty of room too. I mean, it isn’t a huge apartment, but you can have the guest bedroom and I can clear out my yoga room for Ben. I wouldn’t be using it for several months anyway, since I do my yoga on the rooftop when the weather’s warm enough.”

“But, Cas—”

Holding up a hand, Cas interrupted. “Please, Dean. Let me do this for you? You are my friend and I want to help.”

“Can we, Dean? I like Castiel; he’s nice,” Ben added.

With a soft sigh and a softer smile, Dean nodded. “If you insist, Cas. Thanks, buddy. I really can’t even tell you how much your help and support means to me.”

“That is what friends are for, right?” Cas replied, eyes shining as he went back to his meal.